Picks and Pans Review: Spotlight On...
updated 05/08/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 05/08/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT
It would be hard to imagine more dramatically divergent views of the same crime than those offered by two new volumes examining the Christmas 1996 murder of 6-year-old Jon Benét Ramsey in Boulder, Colo. The Death of Innocence (Nelson, $24.95), by her parents, John and Patsy Ramsey (with uncredited help by freelance writer Robert L. Wise), relies on several pieces of unexplained physical evidence—including unidentified DNA found under the girl's fingernails and on her panties-to make the case for a pedophile intruder killing their little princess. The book also provides an emotional account of the family's subsequent ordeal. By contrast, JonBenét (St. Martin's, $24.95), from former Boulder police detective Steve Thomas (with local writer Don Davis), paints an impassioned and often persuasive alternative scenario, pointing the finger of suspicion directly at Patsy Ramsey. There's also plenty of blame for D.A. Alex Hunter, whose office cooperated closely, even cozily, with the couple's attorneys. Thomas says Hunter's restrictions on which witnesses could be interviewed under what conditions fatally com-. promised an already flawed probe. In fact, the detective's frustrations led him to resign from the investigation in August 1998 after 18 months as a key player.
Reading the two books can induce whiplash. The authors make opposing claims on such points as whether the voice of Jon Benét's brother Burke can be heard in the background of his mother's 911 call. (The Ramseys maintain he was asleep; Thomas says he is audible.) Absent even a report from the Boulder grand jury—which ended its probe last October—it is hard to weigh the relative merit of these claims. And yet these duelling accounts are likely to lead readers to the same conclusion: If ever a case cried out for an independent prosecutor, this one does.